Magpies face test of skill and courage

Newcastle take on more than just 11 men tonight. Glenn Moore reports from Zagreb

It looked a case of premature celebration when small bottles of champagne were served with lunch on Newcastle's flight to Croatia yesterday, but most of the players, anxious neither to tempt fate nor Kenny Dalglish's ire, quickly handed them back.

Tonight those players will need the clearest of heads as they take on Croatia Zagreb in the intimidating Maksimir stadium. It was not recent Balkan history which made the ground tingle when Zagreb defeated Partizan Belgrade in the last round, it was the tumult of passion for any major game. There may not always be the hatred present against Partizan, but Zagreb were still banned from Europe two seasons ago after crowd trouble in a tie against Auxerre.

The local mood has been further inflamed by the nature of Newcastle's first-leg win in this European Cup preliminary round tie - John Beresford's contested second goal, allowed after an illegal challenge on the goalkeeper by Faustino Asprilla, has been repeatedly shown on television.

That goal gave Newcastle a fortuitous 2-1 win after they were outplayed for long periods at St James' Park. They thus need a draw, or a high-scoring narrow defeat, to progress to the lucrative Champions'-and wealthy-countries'- runners-up League. Defeat carries the consolation prize of a place in the Uefa Cup.

"We have given ourselves a chance," Kenny Dalglish, the Newcastle manager, said yesterday. "They are a very good side, better than Monaco [who convincingly knocked Newcastle out of Europe last season]. But we are not a bad side ourselves - though to read what they are supposed to have said in the papers we are only going there to make up the numbers."

Dalglish was referring to reported comments from Zlatko Canjuga, Zagreb's club president, who said: "Newcastle will be frightened when they are confronted by our fans. We have no worries about this match at all. We will win 3-0 - as a team Newcastle are a bunch of losers."

Since this is just the stuff to pass around the dressing-room to provide that extra bit of motivation, Dalglish will be unworried by such comments. Stopping Robert Prosinecki, a 1991 European Cup winner with Red Star Belgrade, and Silvio Maric, who is destined for Milan, running the game as they did on Tyneside is more his concern.

Robert Lee and David Batty will be detailed to watch those two, while Newcastle's only major doubt is over whether to play Jon Dahl Tomasson behind Asprilla, or Keith Gillespie in a wide role, or Warren Barton in a defensive one.

The obvious temptation is to play Barton, but the pressure on the defence may find more relief if Asprilla, who is not the best at holding the ball, is supported by Tomasson. The Colombian remains a key figure as Newcastle need a goal - it is difficult to see them keeping a clean sheet.

Other strong performances are required from Stuart Pearce, whose experience will be important early on, and Shay Given, who has been signed for nights like this.

In front of him, the defence needs to keep a closer watch on a prolific Igor Cvitanovic, a former Middlesbrough target and the scorer of 99 league goals in six years plus Croatia's first leg strike.

Dalglish said: "I keep hearing they will bombard us in the opening 20 minutes. That doesn't worry me as much as how they organise their side for the game."

There were a few hopeful signs for Newcastle at the weekend. While they were winning their third game of the season, Zagreb were losing at their leading rivals, Hajduk Split. Moreoever, their coach, Marijan Vlak, did not travel to the game because of a back injury and is being pressured to stand down in favour of the controversial national coach, Miroslav Blazevic, until he recovers.

Nor have Zagreb done well in Europe since Croatian clubs have been allowed to compete under their own flag. In three campaigns, they have only defeated teams from the Faroe Isles and Albania.

However, unlike Newcastle, they are at least champions of their own country, having done the double for the last two seasons. They are also the only Croatian side to have lifted a European trophy, winning the Fairs' Cup in 1967, two years before Newcastle did, by beating Leeds.

They were than called Dinamo Zagreb and represented the old Yugoslavia. As standard bearers for their new country, they will be formidable opponents, their technical ability bolstered by a distinct pride.

When, at the end of ITV's coverage of the first match, Bob Wilson turned to Terry Venables and asked: "Do you think they [Newcastle] can do it over there?" the old smoothie had to summon all his media skills to avoid saying an outright `no.'

"It will be very difficult for them, and a very good achievement if they win," was the gist of his reply. Little has happened since to alter that view.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea